In my first meetings with Hans-Peter Klein-Schell, VP Corporate Property and Services, I felt a hint of excitement about the upcoming expansion but the information was rather vague. At that time I had something like LACES in mind and was extremely excited to join this awesome company. I decided to accept the offer and get on board a couple of months later.
By the end of the first week I began to understand that adidas is neither an ordinary company nor do we have ordinary projects. Instead of adding just one more office building we are basically doubling the space and making a giant leap into the future of our campus and the way we work by adding two new office buildings, one restaurant and two parking garages.
“I was thrilled and I knew that I had to hit the ground running. Luckily I was now able to switch suit and tie for running shoes.”
Christian Dzieia, Senior Director Property Development
The first thing I worked on was the project set-up and understanding what resources we have available. Since architecture and construction is not exactly adidas core business our organization in this area is rather lean. While I have a small team of highly trained experts it was very clear that we need significant external support. To ensure we continuously challenge ourselves and get fresh ideas on how to put the spirit of sport and competition into a building, we are not designing these buildings internally but instead are using external architects and experts. Our job is to organize the whole project and ensure we meet the quality, schedule and budget for these projects and make sure they are truly adidas Group buildings.
COLLECT & ANALYZE
To start a process like that we first have to understand what we actually need. This is one of the most important parts in any project as we are laying the foundation during this step. “Shit in – Shit out” might sound harsh but it is very true especially for construction projects and one of the main reasons major projects fail or run completely out of scope and budget. This first phase involves calculations and estimates regarding workplaces, general functions and special requirements. In this case it went all the way to actually walking around and counting our existing desks to double-checking that we have the most recent data on our space usage.
PREPARING THE ARCHITECTURE COMPETITION
The next step was to start the architectural design for the two office buildings, since they will have the biggest impact on the overall campus and need the longest time for design and construction.
“To select the best architects we opted for a limited open competition, where multiple architects develop an idea for the design and a jury selects a winner from this group. This method ensures that we not only get a large group of architects involved but also get a lot of different designs.”
Christian Dzieia, Senior Director Property Development
In my experience these processes lead to far better results than just selecting a single high-grade architect and trying to work things out, as we also give new and upcoming architects a chance to ensure we get cutting-edge design. We also agreed to have one competition for both office buildings and to assign the participants to one specific building each. This ensured that we get the whole picture for the campus but it also focuses the individual architects on just one building. As the adidas Group is a truly international company we reached out to an international community and allowed any architect with relevant experience to apply for the competition. We received more than 200 applications from all over the world (China, the US and Australia). Wow, this was way more than we expected. We selected 30 architects for each location and ensured that we get a good mix of younger and more experienced offices with different styles and references. Since we expect exceptional design from the participants we also spent some effort on creating a really nice design brief summarizing all information. After a couple of late-night sessions we finalized a beautiful brochure ready to be sent to the architects.
PART 2 – GET THE COMPETITION STARTED
After the participants were selected and we had sent out the actual design brief, the real competition started. The first milestone was the so-called “Colloquium” where we invited all architects to our headquarters, the World of Sports. We really took this to heart as we wanted to assure that they fully understand the company culture, the brand and the surrounding area. After an exciting day all teams went home excited and thrilled.
BEHIND THE SCENES
Two months later the architects submitted their results anonymously. We wanted to keep it anonymous as we absolutely wanted to ensure that we base the decision for the winning design on the best architecture and not just on a well-known name.
To make a final decision we spent two weeks at the Quelle area in Fürth where all the designs were mounted (6x A0 drawings plus a model). What an awesome location to talk about architecture. The raw building is a beautiful contrast to the modern design we discussed inside. Before spending one day with the jury on each of the two locations we analyzed the designs, broke down the costs and specified quality and functionality to assess them.
THE JURY & THE GRADING
The jury, which consisted of six external architects and six adidas representatives, worked together extremely well. Our colleagues all got a crash course in architecture and had a huge impact on the discussions to find the best fit for our company. Actually I shouldn’t tell anyone how well they did as it would question why on earth you need to study five years to become an architect.
During the course of these days the designs which did not fit our requirements were eliminated in two rounds before it came down to the final round. In this round, all remaining designs were discussed in detail again, further analyzed and documented in a written report. The grading is always the most exciting part. It’s difficult to describe how it feels but this is a defining moment as it basically sets the stage for the years to come and you are for the first time really confronted with the possible results that we have to realize. We had heated discussions as multiple viewpoints and ideas had to be aligned. We had a lot of very strong designs but those that were finally selected really deserved to win … Amazing and unique architecture which will have a huge impact on our campus.
Before we presented the results to the Executive Board for final approval we further detailed them in a two-week refinement phase. We then had extremely inspiring and encouraging discussions with all five Board members. Frankly, I was amazed by the interest and commitment of our Executive Board to this topic. In the end, their selection was in line with the recommendations from the jury and I was thrilled that we got the go for the next steps.
Stuttgart-based “Behnisch Architekten” was chosen for the south-eastern office building, which will be the future main entrance to the World of Sports, because its openness and airiness mean it meshes exceptionally well with the dynamics of sport. “Caramel Architekten” from Vienna, who placed second, delighted judges with a revolutionary, highly flexible spatial concept, and were awarded the contract for the western office building. You can imagine that when I contacted the architects both were extremely excited to be part of this fantastic journey.